There is something about my music career that I probably don’t talk or write about often enough. When asked about how they got started in music, most people will refer to their passion for music and how they followed their dreams to become the musicians they are today. It didn’t really work that way for me. God spoke to me when I was in seventh grade and my entire professional career goes back to that day when He made a promise to me.
The Beginning of My Career
Like many other professional musicians, I began playing music in school. I took a music class in fourth grade and was signed up for band in fifth (in Maryland I think). At that time, music was just something I enjoyed doing. It was fun. But I never really had that desire that I have heard so many people talk about.
My father was in the military, so we moved constantly. After a year of band, we moved to a state that didn’t have band in sixth grade, so I took a year of private lessons. Then we moved to Hawaii where I went to Wahiawa Intermediate for seventh and eighth grade. Some time during those two years I was praying and God told me very specifically, “If My love shines through your music, I will provide for all of your earthly needs.”
Standing On God’s Promise
One of the topics I teach is music business. And I’m good at it. But I often have to remind myself that things are different for me. I have been standing on God’s promise to that naive little seventh grader for about thirty-five years now. The way I play my horn, the way I teach, the way I write music and the way I conduct myself in this music business is all centered on fulfilling that priority first. My primary musical objective is to share God’s love through my music. Knowing God has promised me to provide for all of my earthly needs for as long as I share His love through my music, I have a level of professional confidence which is unrealistic to expect of other people. So teaching music business, it’s important for me to remember that God’s promise makes my situation a lot different from the norm.
I have never had a desire to be famous. I never wanted to “make it big.” I don’t need for more people to know about me. I don’t have an ego that needs to be satisfied by the illusion that everyone loves me and wants to worship me. No, instead, my desire has always been to be a beacon of God’s love (not my own love mind you) that shines through my music, just as God asked of me when I was living in Hawaii.
He has never failed in keeping this promise. And that makes teaching music business just a little bit awkward because I never had fears about not being able to “make it.” I don’t really deal with the same issues that most people do because for me it really is an entirely different business. Music business, to me, is just a tool I use to continue to let God’s love shine.
Some people I have shared this story with have responded by saying that God’s word already says He will provide for us. They say this as if it negates or disproves the fact that God spoke to me. But they don’t realize that they are actually PROVING it instead of negating it.
Last year (2013) Pearl and I went to visit family in Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. This is where I first met Pearl’s Uncle Vic, who is an AOG pastor in Port Elizabeth. When we talked about hearing from God, Uncle Vic told me how important it was to get confirmation. He used an analogy of a harbor with three lighthouses. He said that the harbor has only one narrow way to enter and that to be certain you are on course, you must line up the three lights to navigate safely into the harbor. If you go by only one of those lights, you will crash on the reef. This, he said, is also how hearing from God works.
There is a danger of thinking you heard from God, but you have actually heard from satan instead. Or maybe what you heard in your head was just an idea that popped up. How do you discern God’s speaking to you from thoughts and other less holy messages?
Well, the first way to be certain you heard from God is to go to the Bible and check what it says on the issue. In speaking to you, God will never contradict the Bible. Someone who tells me that God told him to lie probably wasn’t really hearing from God. Someone who says God told them to have an affair probably wasn’t really hearing from God.
In my case, the people who tried to refute my claim that God spoke to me were actually proving it instead. They told me that the Bible already says God will provide for all of our needs. Well there you go!!! Confirmation!
The third lighthouse for me on this issue has just been the responses I’ve gotten from the people God has placed in my life. There have been countless third lighthouses during my life long career as a musician. One of the most recent was from my new South African friend, Leonard Brandt.
Leonard recently asked me about my approach to writing music. He said he heard something different about my music but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. When I told him about how I seek God’s peace when I’m composing (Colossians 3:15), he responded with affirmation. He said that this is precisely what he is hearing in my music.
Almost all of the compliments I get for my music go back to God’s love shining through my horn. I remember when a producer for the first CD I did in Houston told me how much he liked my jazz playing. He said, “It’s modern, but it doesn’t repulse.” He was hearing God’s love!!!
On another occasion, a “chick singer” confessed to me that when she played in this one band, she always got nervous. But when I was there, my presence in the band always had a calming effect on her.
I could go on for hours giving examples of these kinds of compliments. I have always known that these people are not responding to me. They are responding to God’s love which is shining through my music.
A Musical Mandate
Yes, the Bible does say that God will provide for all of our needs. But when God spoke to me as a child, He was giving me direction in my life. He was telling me which way he wanted to go. I am called to be a musician and more importantly, a teacher of music. I am not an entertainer, but God’s love lifts people up in ways that entertainment never will.